The remains of a Chinese rocket that was hurtling back towards Earth have crashed into the Indian Ocean. This was confirmed by the country’s space agency .
The bulk of the rocket was destroyed as it re-entered the atmosphere, but state media reported that debris landed just west of the Maldives on Sunday.
There have been days of speculation over where the rocket might land, and US officials and other experts warned its return risked potential casualties.
But China insisted the risk was low.
The Long March-5b vehicle re-entered the atmosphere at 10:24 Beijing time (02:24 GMT) on Sunday. State media reported citing the Chinese Manned Space Engineering office. There were no reports of injuries or damage.
It said debris from the 18-tonne rocket, one of the largest items in decades to have an undirected dive into the atmosphere, landed in the Indian Ocean at a point 72.47° East and 2.65° North.
US Space Command, meanwhile, simply said the rocket had re-entered over the Arabian Peninsula. It did not confirm the landing point reported by Chinese media, saying instead that it was unknown if the debris [had] impacted land or water.
The monitoring service Space-Track, which uses US military data, said the rocket was recorded above Saudi Arabia before it fell into the Indian Ocean near the Maldives.
The uncontrolled return of the rocket led to pointed criticism from the US amid fears that it could land in an inhabited area. US and European websites tracked its return, amid much speculation on social media about where the debris might land.
US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin said that Spacefaring nations must minimise the risks to people and property on Earth, He also stated it is clear that China is failing to meet responsible standards regarding their space debris.
The main segment from the Long March-5b vehicle was used to launch the first module of China’s new space station last month.